Congratulations to Postdoctoral Fellow Jessica Calvanico on the publication of her article, “Arson Girls, Match-Strikers, and Firestarters: A Reflection on Rage, Racialization, and the Carcerality of Girlhood.” You can find Jessica’s article in the Winter 2022 issue of Signs.
This article explores firesetting and its legal manifestation, arson, as a crucial link between girlhood, carcerality, and rage. Beginning with the North Carolina Samarcand Arson Trial of 1931, when twelve girls were charged with the capital offense of arson for burning down the Samarcand Manor State Home and Industrial Training School for Girls, an institution that incarcerated white girls during the Jim Crow era, I read historical examples of girls who set fires. In doing so, I consider firesetting as a strategy of political resistance to girls’ physical incarceration as well as what I see as the carcerality of girlhood. Additionally, I examine representations of firesetting girls from literature and film to consider how so-called match-strikers translate their rage into the calculated political act of arson as a form of anticarceral resistance to the category of girlhood itself. While I argue that the acts of firesetting are performances of anticarceral rage, representations of these “arson girls” perpetuate the suspended category of girlhood as a limiting prison of subjective boundaries enmeshed with white supremacy and class discrimination.
Read more here.